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Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson set for surgery, out indefinitely

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Virginia Tech’s embarrassing weekend came with a rather substantial personnel loss.

This past Saturday, starting quarterback Josh Jackson went down with a lower-leg injury in then-No. 13 Tech’s historic loss to Old Dominion; it was the Conference USA program’s first-ever win over a Power Five school after nine straight such losses over the last decade.

Monday, the Hokies’ worst fears were realized as Justin Fuente confirmed that Jackson suffered a fractured left fibula during the game and will be sidelined indefinitely.¬† The signal-caller is set to undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair the damage.

This season prior to the injury, Jackson completed a little over 62 percent of his 58 passes for 575 yards, five touchdowns and an interception.¬† His 170.3 pass efficiency rating is currently 18th nationally and second among ACC quarterbacks (Boston College’s Anthony Brown, 175.5).

With Jackson sidelined for the foreseeable future, the keys to Tech’s offense will be handed off to Ryan Willis.¬† The Kansas transfer had to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, and has attempted 25 passes for the Hokies this season.¬† In that limited action thus far, he has thrown for 195 yards and a touchdown.

The good news is that Willis isn’t exactly new to the starting game at the collegiate level.

Willis started two games during the 2016 season; after throwing three interceptions in each of those mid-October starts, Willis was benched and never played another down for the Jayhawks. In his first season in Lawrence in 2015, Willis set a KU freshman record by throwing for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns as part of his eight starts.

“I feel badly for Josh,” Fuente said in comments distributed by the school earlier today. “He’s a competitive, tough young man. He just kind of got landed on wrong on the play, but know he’ll come back better than ever.

“We turn to Ryan Willis and he performed pretty well last week when he went in there. He’s competitive and he’s been training and working for this opportunity and it’s up to everyone else to step up their game as well and help him out and support him.”

Colorado storms back to ruin Scott Frost’s debut at Nebraska as QB Adrian Martinez injured

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Nebraska fans had to wait an extra week for the start of the¬†Scott Frost¬†era at the school. They’ll have to wait at least one more to see a win.

Steven Montez lofted a perfectly thrown ball into the arms of Laviska Shenault along the sidelines for a 40 yard score with the clock ticking down in the final quarter as Colorado stunned the crowd at Memorial Stadium to escape with a 33-28 win against their old rival in Lincoln.

The Buffs struck first on the scoreboard and had briefly stunned Big Red after capitalizing on a pair of fumble recoveries to quickly take a two-score lead before Nebraska was even able to really get going. Montez was quite the playmaker in¬†throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns despite an iffy offensive line and carried the team at times during the game. Shenault remains a nice revelation for the CU offense and caught 10 passes for 177 yards — none bigger than the final reception that he caught over a defender and took into the end zone. The dynamic threat was also effective on the ground, carrying the ball twice for five yards and a touchdown.

The late heroics took the load off 31-year-old (yep) kicker James¬†Stefanou, who¬†missed two field goals that would have given the team the lead down the stretch but wasn’t needed in the end.

Such an ending certainly put a damper on the homecoming for Frost in his first game in charge of his alma mater and was a double blow for Big Red considering the emergence of true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. The electric Californian dazzled with the ball in his hands, throwing for 187 yards and a touchdown (one interception late) while rushing for 117 more on the ground and adding two more scores. He scored the first points of the season after the team had their opener cancelled, keeping it on the option and scampering 41 yards around the edge before vaulting into the end zone to ignite the crowd.

As great as Martinez was though, there was concern throughout Nebraska’s program after he suffered a knee injury in the final few minutes of the game while running the ball. He failed to put much weight on his leg and needed to be helped off the field. Thanks to transfers over the past few weeks, there’s zero depth behind the freshman as¬†Andrew Bunch, a sophomore walk-on, took reps trying to close the game out but couldn’t quite find the end zone on a final play Hail Mary.

All told, the team still racked up 565 yards of offense and averaged nearly seven yards a play — numbers rarely seen under Frost’s predecessor¬†Mike Riley.¬†Greg Bell flashed on some big runs and recorded 104 yards rushing while fellow tailback¬†Devine Ozigbo¬†chipped in with 60 more and scored an eight yard touchdown.

Maybe more encouraging for the team moving forward was also the reemergence of the Blackshirt defense. The group stepped up with several critical stops as the game went on and had seven sacks on the day as they looked as swarming as ever.

As entertaining as the back-and-forth game was, it was even nicer to see the two teams play each other again between the lines. The last time Colorado and Nebraska met on the gridiron, Frost was the wide receivers coach at Oregon, Mike MacIntyre was just finishing his first season leading San Jose State, and the two schools were going head-to-head in the now-defunct Big 12 North division. Things have changed quite a bit since, with both head coaches moving on to their current jobs and each side having joined a new conference.

The two proved that fun things happen when two rival hook up again in the non-conference schedule and certainly raise the bar for next year’s edition in Boulder.

Scott Frost era finally underway as Nebraska shakes off slow start to lead Colorado at halftime

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The beginning of the¬†Scott Frost¬†era… did not get off to the start Big Red was expecting. Luckily for Nebraska, there was still plenty of football left in Lincoln to get things back on track.

The Cornhuskers fumbled on their first two drives of the season but rebounded to lead 21-17 at the break as they renewed their historic rivalry with Colorado on an electric Saturday afternoon.

The Buffs wasted no time welcoming Frost to the big leagues, taking over after the initial turnover by marching right down the field in just eight plays and 86 yards before QB Steven Montez found Jay MacIntyre in the end zone for a score. They punched it in again on fourth down after the ensuing fumble to quickly go up to scores and briefly stun the crowd on the road.

After settling down, the Huskers struck back however by running off 21 in a row. True freshman¬†Adrian Martinez¬†showed why he was the correct choice at quarterback by scampering 41 yards around the edge off an option play — somersaulting into the end zone for the very first score of the year after weather resulted in cancelling the program’s opener last week.

The signal-caller finished with 172 total yards and escaped pressure on his next drive to set up another score too, with Devine Ozigbo later sending the crowd into a frenzy after crossing the goal line from eight yards out to tie things up. All told, the Nebraska offense looked night-and-day better than has the last few years and had 329 yards through the first two quarters.

Even more encouraging to the fans at home? The Blackshirt defense picked things up too and responded with three sacks in the half after not doing much on that side of the ball last year.

This rivalry game is shaping up to have a good finish as both sides appear fully into this one after an eight year break in the series.

Louisville WR: Every one of our WRs can beat every one of Alabama’s DBs

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Louisville lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, but the remaining Cardinals have not suffered a lack of confidence without their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Or at least not Cardinals wideout Dez Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick (above, left) appeared at Louisville’s media day on Saturday and declared his Cardinals wide receiving corps could match up with Alabama’s secondary man-for-man.

“Every receiver in our receiver corps can honestly beat every one of their DBs one-on-one in coverage,” Fitzpatrick said. “It ties into the other stuff, if the blocks are right, if the quarterback’s drop is right, we ran eight-yard routes instead of a 10-yard route, that’s the kind of stuff I feel like we need to sharpen up.

“But I feel like straight talent-wise, I feel like we have the upper edge against their secondary, 1,000 percent.”

Fitzpatrick was Louisville’s second-leading receiver as a redshirt freshman, hauling in 45 grabs for 699 yards with nine touchdowns. Senior¬†Jaylen Smith¬†led the Cards a year ago with 60 receptions for 980 yards and seven scores, and No. 3 receiver, junior¬†Seth Dawkins, is also back. Alabama underwent a wholesale change in its defensive secondary — cornerbacks¬†Anthony Averett¬†and¬†Levi Wallace¬†and star¬†Tony Brown¬†graduated, while safeties¬†Minkah Fitzpatrick¬†and¬†Ronnie Harrison¬†declared early for the NFL. The Tide also lost defensive coordinator¬†Jeremy Pruitt¬†and defensive backs coach¬†Derrick Ansley.

But the most important piece of Alabama’s pass defense is back, and that’s¬†Nick Saban. New coordinator¬†Tosh Lupoi¬†and new defensive backs coach¬†Karl Scott¬†are expected to plug-and-play a new unit that will still rank among the best in college football.

But not good enough to shut down Louisville and its new quarterback, Jawon Pass, at least according to Fitzpatrick.

A game with a 31-point spread just became slightly more interesting.

Alabama mounting comeback but Georgia still leads as National Championship Game enters final stretch

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ATLANTA — The first half of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game went to plan as a low-scoring, hard-hitting, defensive-minded affair. It seemed a bit of coffee at halftime was all that was needed to jolt some life into No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday night though as the two powerhouses started to break things open and put on a show¬†in the second (and far more important) SEC title game for all the marbles.

In front of what amounted to a relative home crowd, it was the Bulldogs who held a 20-10 lead as they chase their first national title since 1980 with the clock winding down to the fourth quarter. Though the low score was representative of how things began, there were still several big plays that jolted both shades of red to their feet in Atlanta.

Alabama corner Tony Brown¬†kicked things off by picking off Georgia quarterback¬†Jake Fromm’s second pass of the game, wrestling a pass out of the hands of Javon Wims¬†in what might be the play of his career given the stage. While it amounted to a bit of an arm punt given the down and distance, it was nevertheless the start that the Tide wanted defensively.

The Bulldogs defense made sure that the turnover was not painful on the scoreboard however, allowing Jalen Hurts (3-of-8 passing, 47 yards rushing) to march down the field but keeping him out of the end zone thanks to a missed throw to wideout Calvin Ridley and then drawing a false start that eventually led to a missed field goal from Andy Pappanastos.

The more curious thing from the Georgia sideline may have been the offensive play calling. The team opened with seven straight passes for Fromm and didn’t run the ball until the first quarter was more than halfway over. Still, tailback¬†Sony Michel¬†picked up where he left off in the Rose Bowl against No. 2 Oklahoma with the team’s biggest play of the first quarter by hitting the edge and jetting up the sideline for 26 yards. He finished with XX on the ground all told while teammate¬†Nick Chubb¬†was general held in check with 16.

That one long run by Michel helped keep the Bulldogs’ third drive alive before it stalled just outside the red zone — a bit of a habit for the team early on.¬†Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship¬†calmly nailed a 41 yard field goal to put Georgia up 3-0 and later added another from 27 out.

The Bulldogs’ offense did seem to find a groove right before the break however as they used some big throws by Fromm to drive nearly the length of the field with just 79 seconds left on the clock. Aided in part by an Alabama penalty, the team eventually found pay dirt thanks to a touchdown off a direct snap to Mecole¬†Hardman.

In terms of halftime adjustments,¬†Nick Saban saved up his biggest of the season by pulling the team’s starting quarterback and inserting true freshman¬†Tua¬†Tagovailoa. The lefty breathed life in to the Tide almost right away and completed a remarkable scramble to extend a drive¬†on his second series. That eventually resulted in a touchdown throw to Henry¬†Ruggs III and help cut into some of that lead.

The Bulldogs would mount an impressive response however to seize momentum right back. Just three plays later it was Fromm who found a streaking Hardman down the field, dropping in a perfectly thrown pass over the shoulder and resulting in an 80 yard touchdown after the wideout tip-toed his way down the sidelines. The defense later responded with an interception that would have felt like a killer had their own quarterback not thrown one off a tipped pass just a play later.

There’s just one quarter to go before a champion is crowned and history will be made.